Suspects in Lake Christine Fire arrested in Basalt
The suspects in the Lake Christine Fire were arrested by Eagle County authorities early Sunday morning at a residence in Basalt.
Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown confirmed that El Jebel residents Allison Marcus, 22, and Richard Miller, 23, were taken into custody on charges of fourth-degree arson, a Class 4 felony, and firing woods or prairie, a Class 6 felony. The two suspects are free on a $7,500 bond each.
“We had thought that the suspects would be turning themselves in through contact with them and their legal representation,” he said. “But when that had not happened and we learned they were at a residence in Basalt, deputies took them into custody.”
According to Brown, the arrests took place shortly after midnight Saturday. He said the suspects went willingly; however, a third party at the home did cause an incident and also was arrested on an unrelated charge. Brown was not able to elaborate Sunday night on who that person was or the charges he or she might be facing.
As of midday Sunday, the fire had burned 6,778 acres and was 57 percent contained. Three homes were destroyed, with a combined value of $2.65 million, according to the affidavit.
Marcus and Miller were allegedly at the shooting range near Basalt firing tracer rounds shortly before 6 p.m. on July 3. The public range was open despite fire restrictions banning everything from charcoal grill fires to outdoor smoking. However, firing tracer ammunition is always banned, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which owns and operates the shooting range.
The two suspects initially were approached at the gun range at 5:59 p.m. — five minutes after Pitkin County dispatch sent notice that a fire had possibly originated at the gun range — by an Eagle County deputy and an off-duty Forest Service officer, according to the affidavit, which was written by Eagle County Det. Aaron Veldheer.
Marcus told the authorities that she “caused it and was sorry. Marcus said she called into 911 to report the fire,” the affidavit says.
Marcus said she had been shooting a rifle, while Miller said he was firing a shotgun.
“Deputy (Josiah) Maner asked Miller what kind of rounds they were shooting,” the affidavit says. “Miller claimed not to know. Deputy Maner asked Miller if he was shooting incendiary rounds, such as tracers. Miller stated no. I asked Miller if he was shooting at exploding targets such as Tannerite or paper. Miller stated paper.”
The deputy asked those questions, the affidavit notes, because “these items are prohibited from use during a Stage 2 fire restriction.”
As the deputy sorted through the suspects’ firearms and ammunition — the search was consensual, the affidavit says — Miller admitted to firing tracer rounds.
Miller told authorities he was aware of the fire ban but said the signs indicating such on Two Rivers Road and Highway 82 near Original Road “only read fires and fireworks were prohibited.” The deputy subsequently seized the firearms, which included a shotgun, a .308 caliber rifle and ammunition, to be placed into evidence, the affidavit says.
According to Colorado statutes, fourth-degree arson can rise to a Class Four felony “if a person is thus endangered.” With a conviction, the charge carries a prison term of two to six years with three years of mandatory parole.
The Class 6 felony charge of firing woods or prairie is when a person “knows or reasonably should know that he or she violates any applicable order, rule, or regulation lawfully issued by a governmental authority that prohibits, bans, restricts, or otherwise regulates fires during periods of extreme fire hazard and that is designed to promote the safety of persons and property,” according to statutes.
Scott Condon contributed to this report.